August 27, 2005

Organic Gardening is the Way to Go

Upon reading a great post by Palema regarding organic gardening, I remembered an interesting, and possibly related topic of discussion with a patron at my local vet today. Our pets were in for maintenance shots, but while we were sitting there, a couple brought in a very old and shaky, yet utmost happy Irish setter. It was clear it would be the dog's last visit to the vet! :(

This motivated a conversation about pets we love and have put to sleep, and the causes of illness. I propose organic gardening and pest maintenance.

The man told me he and his wife explored a mysterious kidney disease his dog had that was about to end it's life, or at least life quality. The man hypothesized that this mystery disease might have somehow (I'm not really sure how) been related to the known over-use of chemical sprayers on the gypsy moth caterpillars that year.

Thinking back to my two cats with cancer, that I adopted from the very same clinic as his, I remembered pondering why of all the cats I have had (only about 5 now in adult life, and this man knew of at least 2 others, even so, a small sampling) both adopted from that clinic had been diagnosed with cancer. One had an obvious lump on its back, removed once and returned. I watched this cat breath it's last breaths. The second cat, in an eerily timely fashion, picked up an equally eerie cough that set off an alarm bell. While it could have been inhaled bubblegum-flavored antibiotics (why oh why?) for a swollen lymph node, it likely was due to the large mass found on XRay throughout the lungs and heart area.

Back to my point - the cats both had issues. i got them from the same neighborhood, the same week. This was the same year the dog owner reported not only his dog unexpectedly getting ill, but other dogs as well. It was 1992, and the town was West Hartford, CT. It saddens me a bit, because I was VERY lucky to live across the hall from one talented Dr. Kristen Polci who managed to save my neighbor's cat after a bad car accident. I admired and respected her and come to the conclusion it was not the vet clinic, but rather some other element of that town or neighborhood.

Tell me, has any research shown that gypsy moth insecticides cause liver disease or cancer???

Obviously one would have to do clear cut research, and samples of more than 30 can be more accurate predictors, but I am swayed. Organic gardening is the way to go.

August 24, 2005

Biking to work

Failure Magazine carries a review of Bicycle: The History by David Herlihy, a book that expounds on the loss of a mode of transportation that was once liberating to the masses and more particularly, to women. How far has fallen the noble bicycle!
In 21st-century America, bicycles are generally considered to be the province of kids, bike messengers, and lycra-clad Lance Armstrong wannabes. The once-King of the Road has been marginalized, pushed to the road shoulder—figuratively and sometimes literally.
Bicyle commuting would be a good idea - at the least, in fair weather.

I went through a period of riding my bike a distance of about one and a half miles to work in an office, and it was okay as long as I wasn't in too much of a hurry and the weather was agreeable. One does not want to arrive at the office dripping wet from rain or from sweat.

There were so many days when it was too hot, too cold, or too wet, that I ultimately abandoned the bicyle to the dust kittens in the downstairs hall, where it remained with a flat tire and a padlock whose combination I had long since forgotten, until we moved.

That bike, a ladies three-speed, had one advantage only, a seat ample enough to be comfortable. I got it second-hand for a little under $100. My husband at the time was influential in my getting it and I am sure I disappointed him in failing to take up biking with enthusiasm. Rather, it was a grinding chore for me.

Nevertheless, I think using a bike as transportation is an excellent idea, and I recommend it to everyone else. People ought to drive less; they ought to live closer to where they work and use a bike or walk to work. And they should definitely walk or bike to where they exercise.

Years ago I noted the irony that the downtown YMCA gym was failing to attract new people due to a lack of parking space There was a parking lot less than a block away, but people apparently did not want to walk half a block to exercise -- they wanted to park directly in front of the door.

The author of the above mentioned bicycle review likewise states:
Americans drive their SUV's to the gym, fight for parking spaces, then stand on line for Spin classes led by instructors who don't even own bicycles.

The thing is, biking is not just for exercise. It's for usingless gasoline, keeping the air cleaner and ourselves richer both in cash and conciousness. You can mediate while you bike;but think while driving at your peril.

Thanks to The Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes of Harvard,for the reference to Failure Magazine.

August 20, 2005

Happy birthday, bro'

Today is my brother's birthday!

We haven't spoken much lately, but I am thinking of him.

In lieu of a card, I hereby wish him many happy returns of the day. May this year and the many to come be joyful ones :-)

August 19, 2005

Preserve your lake shore

turtles basking on floating timberIn the accompanying image, turtles bask comfortably on fallen timber at the restored lakefront of a summer home.

Some Minnsota residents have begun to realize that manicured lawns and the golf course look can kill a lake if all the shoreline residents adopt it. The same chemicals that kill the lawn weeds kill off the useful plants at the water's edge, and the same fertilizer that greens the grass, ripens the lake with a superabundance of algae, turning once sparkling waters to a murky green.

That's because of the loss of the lake's "kidneys," the wildflowers and bog life at the margin.

To read more about the problem -- and the solution -- see Kim Palmer's 8/18/05 article Lakeshores Go Wild in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Minneapolis, being the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, appreciates these things. Her article was reprinted tonight in my local paper, the Willimantic Chronicle (I wont bother with a link to it, because its online paper is quite unsatisfying).

Something you may find interesting in the article is the lesson offered on how a small number of people can teach and inspire others to likewise preseve their shoreline property.

August 18, 2005

Natureworks in southern Connecticut

Natureworks landscape, garden, flower and educational center:
Our shop is in a 100-year-old house and is filled to overflowing with unique gifts and gardening accessories in every season. The plant benches in our yard are packed with an amazing variety of fascinating plants, from old-fashioned flowers to the latest cutting-edge introductions. But the best part of visiting Natureworks are the gardens. Our demonstration gardens surround the store and the retail sales yard. They contain most of the plants that we sell, growing in a style marked with wild abandon. They are a place to stroll and relax as well as a living classroom.

I am dying to visit this place, which appears to be located somewhere between North Haven and North Brandford, CT -- about 1.5 hours drive from where I live. For that, it would have to be very good!

The plants they sell are grown in the ground, which seems good to me, as it means they are not delecate hothouse items that will wither under a CT noonday sun or instantly rot following a couple of days of rain (we should be so lucky as to have a couple of rainy days!).

If and when I make this voyage, I will report in this space my review.

August 16, 2005

Gardeners' tips

Help from gardener to gardener is the kind of help I like.

I've noticed sometimes that the horticulture columns in our newspaper rely heavily on insecticides and fertilizers. Some may not mind it, but I do NOT want to be out there spraying stuff on my plants all the time!

And really, it is better for the garden and the gardener and all the wildlife from your pets down to beneficial insects like bees, and the neighbors, and the water supply, not to use poisons, nor to over-fertilize.

Some of the seed catalogs have very useful websites. Park Seeds has, for instance, the Park Garden Notebook. I do not see a link to this on their website; I got it via their email, which I signed up for a while back. I like getting the seed company emails because they often provide information on topics I need, but didnt know I needed!

Another good site I found is Garden Guides, which has many helpful articles and a discussion forum where you can ask questions -- and if you have some gardening experience, share your expertise with the newcomers.

Grow your own nutrition

I am looking forward so much to growing my own fruits and vegetables! I doubt I will be able to feed myself on this small plot of land (much of it shaded by maple trees that ring the perimeter). But any contribution of fresh, tasty food will be a welcome addition to the supermarket blahs.

The Burpee Seed folks have a nice listing of the nutritional benefits of various fruits and vegetables. Some of this will apply to store stuff, but anything that has been trucked across the country is bound to lose freshness; what's more, foodstuffs grown for export are selected for staying power over other values.

To the greatest extent possible, I buy locally grown vegetables and fruits. I urge others to do so also, because without our support, local farmers will wither and blow away like topsoil in a drought.

I feel very fortunate to live in a city that has a food cooperative dedicated to selling locally grown produce, the Willimantic Food Coop and aseasonal farmer's market.
The Farmer's Market has no website, but is listed in numerous other sources.
*Willimantic Farmers' Market
Corner of Jackson & Union Streets
Tuesdays, 1:30pm-5pm
Saturdays, 7:30am-12noon
June 15 thru October

A great source for finding local farms is at the site Local Harvest where you can click the map or enter your zip code to find farms, organic food stores, and restaurants that serve locally grown foods.

August 13, 2005

Summer Days in Rivermantic

One of my favorite Connecticut visits is to Mom's house in "Rivermantic." Like her old apartment, her new house is not far from the river and this invokes visions of shady lanes, occasional cool breezes, and the gurgling of the river. Even on the warmest, most humid dog days of summer, the images of trees along the rapid river invoke cool moments of peace. Is she is like me with the pond (or I like her) then no doubt she envisions listening to the river to bring her peace and coolness wherever she is!

August 12, 2005

Steps to an Ecological Garden

Steps to an Ecological Garden:

Step 1: Stop using chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides. These kill or drive away soil organisms and deprive beneficial insects and animals of habitat and food, taking away their welcome mat.

This Florida gardener has read up on organic or ecological gardening and distills his knowledge here, in nine steps to an ecological garden. Heppily, taking thse steps, creates a more productive garden that takes less work and will nearly run itself after a few years.